Things to see and visit in Kollam District in Kerala
Thankasseri 4 km from Kollam: Once a British enclave, the place is a great draw. Stand here to see the sunrise and sunset. A rare spot. There is a light house here. The light from it spreads to a distance of 16 km in the sea. Stand down the light house to enjoy an exhilarating view of sea.strewn around the light house lies the partly collapsed walls of the early sixteenth century Portuguese Fort and the remains of the Church of St.Thomas probably one in which St Francis Xavier attended mass during his evagelical mission in the Malabar coast.
Ashtamudi Backwaters: The sprawling lake has tributary canals. A fine location for boat rides. The DTPC offers boat ride in the lake and the canals. It also arranges 4-hour cruise which maps in Munroe island, too, formed by backwaters and Kallada river. The DTPC also arranges a sunset cruise of 3 hours.
Neendakara: 8 km from Kollam town. It is a fishing harbour, humming by hundreds of fishing boats. The Ashtamudi lake embraces the sea. The Chinese nets silhouetting is a delightful sight.
Dharmasasftha Temple at Sasthamkotta: The deity here is Lord Ayyappa. Here the temple roof is of corrugated GI sheets as against tiles in most of the shrines in Kerala. This is just to save the roof from the wrath of monkeys in large number as if they are the devotees. The custom here is that devotees have to step on the droppings of the primate. The temple is close to Sasthamkotta lake which meets the drinking water needs of the entire district.
Azheekal: The recent tsunami wrought havoc on this coastal area. Several lives lost. There is a long walkway, rock lined on either side, to the sea. The view of the sea from this point is spectacular. The beach is long stretched.
Alumkadavu: The first in India to build houseboats, the Kettuvallms. The method of its making is interesting to watch. The craftsmen require strong noses as a mix of cashew and fish oil is used as a coating in the manufacturing process. This is to shield from decaying in the water – saline and non saline. After the raw boat work is over, the next step is thatch-roofing. In the final process the raw floor will be transformed like an apartment. The whole process will take few months by about 7 to 8 craftsmen.
Amrithapuri: With one side lake and the other side sea, the place is highly attractive. 32 km away from Kollam town, Amrithapuri, though a village, is known world over. The Ashram (head quarter) of the spiritual leader Matha Amrithanadamayi, affectionately called ‘Amma’(mother) is here. The Amma has large disciples from all faiths in and outside India. The disciples are so large, it warrants hours in queue to receive the blessing. The blessing is a hug by the saint. That is all.
The Amrithapuri has now a town look. A hospital, many buildings for providing accommodations to devotees and staff, a temple and all other amenities. No cast restriction for visitors. Anyone can visit and stay. 10 days notice is required to facilitate the accommodation. Yoga and meditation are part of Ashram activities. Visitors can participate. As the saint is often on tour, it is advisable to ensure the position. Phone : 0476-2896399.
Colonial Relics : The square shaped 1944 built Clock Tower is visible from any part of the historical Chinnakada market. The Velankanni church, a Roman Catholic shrine, is also housed here.
Another monument worth seeing is the former British Residency, a magnificirnt 250 year old mansion that is used at present as a Government Guest House. Overlooking the parade ground it is one of the few monuments from the early days of the Raj. Its palatial rooms still retain their original Georgian furniture, Chinese pickle jars and floor to ceiling shuttered windows while the walls sport antique East India Company lithographs.
19th century tomb stones of the Britishers are there in good form amongst the new and crumbling old grave stones in the English church cemetery.
The Adventure Park at Ashramam managed by District Tourism Promotion Council betrays a look of negligence by the authorities. Ashatamudi lake can clearly be viewed from this park.
The Kerala and European mix architecture reflecting Residency Bungalow built in 1810, more commonly known as government Guest House, is also a hallmark of Kollam. British Resident Colonel Munno had used it as his residence. Erected in a sprawling compound, the bungalow has high ceilinged rooms with scarcely furnished old teak furnitures.
Thevally Palace : The Palace is clearly viewable from Ashatamudi lake. It is now in the use of Public Works Department and the army. There is a stunning legend behind it. A British Resident who resided across the lake fell in deep love with a lady in the Palace. His faithful dog used to swam the lake to deliver love-letters to his master’s love everyday. One day the dog was found dead in the compound – either due to exhaustion or killing by palace disciples. A monument for the ever-faithful dog was built. Its crumbling pedestal is visible now.
Alumkadavu-Sasthamkotta Region: This region represents a way of life a visitor might not have seen anywhere else. Hire a small boat (vallam in local terminology) costing Rs 100-200 (depending upon the visitor’s bargain skill) and cruise past small houses on the banks of the backwaters. For the inhabitors these are their homes but to the visitors they are heaven. The day ends with a thought in the minds of the visitor – what a world around to experience.
The time spent in the boats is an exciting experience to the visitors, but for the people dwelling here the boats are everything – the means of livelihood, means of transport between home, work, school, market, shrines and on on. A small vallam (boat) is a four or six-seater and other passengers have to stand. A visitor cruising in a vallom discovers Kerala and her people. No guides or cooked up brochures are necessary for this.
Twin Temples, Cheriazheeakal: The Sri Kashi Viswanathar Temple is also known as Deccan Kashi Temple. The legend behind the twin temples is interesting. A priest who went to Kashi chanced upon a Shivalingam when he dipped in the Gages. He brought back the Lingam and installed here. There is another legend. There was a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu 2000 years ago at the same site. This temple was washed away by the sea and a new one was built about 150 years ago. And today two temples at a site existed as reality. Mahashivaratri is celebrated for 10 days to appease Lord Shiva in one temple and Sri Krishna Jayanti to appease Lord Sri Krishna in the other temple.Cheriazheekal is located west to Amritapuri.
Wadekkenadayil Bhagawathi Temple: This 1800 years old temple is just opposite to the twin temples. The original temple was taken away by sea and the present one was built 10 years ago. Kannagi is the deity here. The idol was brought from the now sea-eaten Chola city of Kaveri Poompattinam off the east-coast of Tamilnadu. In the 2nd week of May a 10-day long Thottampattu Utsavam is celebrated when Kannagi’s story enshrined in the Tamil epic Silppadhikaram is enacted.
Devi Temple at Thevalakkara: This 1000 years old temple is situated about 14 km from Alumkadavu. There is an interesting story behind the temple. Portuguese attempted to rob the temple, but their attempt resulted futile. When they tried to leave the area their ship did not move. Sensing trouble they apologised for their misdeed and put their repentance in writing on black stone. The writing is still visible. In between the sanctum sanctorum and the main door the inscription can be seen.
Outside the temple there is a papal and palm tree which grow together. A yakshi (lady demon) lives on top of the palm, the locals believe.
Ochira Temple: Ochira is situated 17 km away from the town. There is no temple in the real sense. Around big trees in vast open area there are exposed small idols. Some idols are of female forces attributed to Shakti (power) and the others are of Parabrahmam, the omnipresent. To the right of the idols surrounded trees is an Ayyappa swamy kshetram (temple) constructed similar to Sabarimala temple, and to the left is a mosque. Ochiria is also considered an omnipresent Shiva kshetra. The visitors can see the Ochira Kaala. The decorated Ochira bulls symbolize Shiva’s vehicle, the Nandi. There is a famous festival called Ochira kali festival in June. During this festival men dressed as warriors enact mock war standing in the lake. People of various religious faiths visit this omnipresent temple and the legend is that Buddha had once camped here.
Malanada Duryodhana Temple: 27 km away from the town and near Alumkadavu. The idol-less temple is dedicated to the notorious Kaurava. Duryodhana was served food and water when he was found tired by the low-cast Kuruvas here during his pursuit of Pandavas. As a custom, the priest of the temple is from Kuruva community. The rituals and customs are Dravidian. Animal sacrifice was a usual practice here earlier. Following vehement protests from enlightened citizens this deplorable practice is discontinued now. During worship a rooster wanders around symbolically. In the 2nd Friday of Meenam (March/April) there is festival when Duryodana’s favoured beverage toddy is brought by the devotees as offering. As the toddy is in great demand during this day, the devotees who are unable to get toddy bring tamboolam (betel nut and arcecanut),red silk or a rooster as offering. Malanad is located 14 km away from Sasthamkottra
St Mary’s Orthodox Church: Situated at Kallada, 30 km from the town. The church is several hundred years old. It was reconstructed four times. A wood beam, inside, reportedly 700 years old, has a sign of cross, a Hindu symbol and a Muslim crescent. A shrine dedicated to Mar Andrews displays the inscription “In sacred memory of Mar Andrews, a prelate from Jerusalem who arrived in Kerala in 1678 … died in 1692. Here he lies entombed, enshrined.”
Thenmala: Located 73 km north of Thiruvananthapuram and 73 km east of Kollam town, Thenmala lies in the foothills of western Ghats in Kollam district. It neighbours Senduruney wildlife sanctuary and distances little from Courtallam Falls in Tamilnadu.
Thenmala is accredited as India’s first planned eco-tourism project. An eco-tourism vacation at Thenmala is educative, fun and indefinably more. Here the man, matter and nature celebrated. A visitor can count on many. If opted for a natural trail, for example, could identify the lively animals hovering around as harmless monkeys. Soon the visitor will realise these energetic creatures are the lovely Macaca radiate, indigenous to the area. Thenmala’s forests, rubber and tea plantations are quick to grab the mind of visitors. Spend a day with Thenmala Eco-tourism Facilitation Centre to have bellyfull of activities.
A visitor is advised to visit first Thenmala Ecotourism Facilitation Centre (Phone: 0475-234800). They will arrange to experience most of Thenmala’s USP, the eco-tourism. Their staff is specialized in planning the itinerary. Website: thenmalaecotourism.com; thenmalaecotourism.org.
Senduruney Wildlife Sanctuary: The reservoir of Senduruney Sanctuary is a great draw for boating. Eco-tourism is a serious effort which the tourists will realize at the time of signing up for a ride. A bafttery-operated van carries the visitors from the Facilitation Centre to the boat’s set off point. The round trip lasts an hour. The lucky visitors can spot exotic species of wildlife in a shore scan during the thrilling ride. There is no boating on Mondays.
There is trekking facility in the Sanctuary and other ancillary spots in the Western Ghats. The trekking programme is arranged by National Adventure Foundation (Phone : 0944-7217035 of Thiruvananthapuram. The charge inclusive of transportation and food is Rs 750 per head for trekking time of 4 to 5 hours. If overnight stay is desired, accommodation is available for Rs 1500 per person. If there is a group booking, the rates will be lower.For trekkers, Guides are available at the Facilitation Centre for Rs 200.
There is an Adventure Zone located 700 m away from Facilitation Centre. Nature-walks, mountain biking, elevated walk-ways, recreational rock-climbing, rappelling and river-crossing are the attractions here. Entry fee is Rs 20-50 for mountain-biking. Rock climbing and rappelling Rs 100, River crossing Rs 30-50.
There is another zone called Leisure Zone. A large broad walk and swaying bridge add glamour to ever-thriving greenery.
Yet another zone – Culture Zone – has a Musical Dancing Fountain where jets of water dance to film songs. There is no show on Mondays. If Monday falls on public holiday, there will be show. Entry fee is Rs 25-5o. Normally, the Fountain is activated and operated in the presence of a minimum 10 visitors as otherwise it will be uneconomical.
Deer Rehabilitation Centre: The spotted, sambar and barking deer strayed from the nearest forests are rehabilitated here. The animals are rehabilitated in a nature trail surrounded enclosure. The inhabitants get food and medical attention. Walk around the nature trail to spot the deers. The walk consuming about an hour throws open a chance to the visitors to climb a tall ladder and perch in a tree-house which offers an exciting view of the surrounding massive forests. The Centre is located about 1.5 km from the Facilitation Centre.
Shri Dharmasastha Kshetram at Kulathupuzha: This Ayyappa temple has a unique ritual practice. It is Meenoottu, feeding of fish. The feeding is done in the nearby lake with peanuts and puffed rice. Seeing the feeds, fish in large numbers suddenly converge and eat in a frenzy mood – a joyful sight to watch. The bridge over the lake provides a good view of the eating fish. The temple was constructed by the Raja of Kottarakara. The festival lasting10 days is in Medam (precisely from April 5 to 14). The temple is located 10 km from Thenmala.
Shri Rama Temple at Triprayar in Thrissur district is also very famous for fish feeding ritual. Here the feeding is done in the Canoli canal in front of the temple.
Aryankavu: Located on Kollam-Shencotta road, Aryankavu has an important shrine of Ayyappa. Some believe the Lord here is in his Brahmachari (bachelor) avatar, while some others believe that this is the place where the Lord married Pushkala from Saurashtra community. Anyway, the festivals celebrated here lent credentials to both the arguments. The main festival, Thirukalyanam (divine marriage), attributes to Lord’s marriage to Pushkala. The Mandala Pooja during November-December, celebrated in most of the Ayyappa temples and more popular in Sabarimala Ayyappa temple in Pathanamthitta district, is also an important event here. The temple is 35 ft below the road level.
Palaruvi Falls: 4 km away from Aryankavu, the 300 ft high Aryankavu Falls are like white thin threads of water. The name Palaruvi itself means stream of milk. The falls-water collects in a small pond below and flows out. Bathing is allowed in the pond. A nature-shower bath is an unforgettable experience. The road leading to the falls is narrow and passes through forests. After some stretch of level it goes uphill. There is a hotel, Hotel Aram, which has only 3 basic rooms. The visitors require to hand-over their belongings including liquor possession, if there is, at the checkpoint, 4 km to the falls, where there is a restaurant.
Hanging Bridge of Punalur: Punalur is 22 km away from Thenmala and en-route to Thenmala from Kottarakkara. The inscription of ‘1877’ on the arch of the bridge is possibly the year of construction. This bridge across the Kallada River is a ’Protected Monument’ and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The bridge is 20 ft wide. The base is made of wooden planks and slides are of metal. The bridge used mainly for traffic in the earlier days is now restricted to pedestrians.
Achancovil: The temple consecrated by Parasurama is devoted to Ayyappa. The idol holding a shield and sword is worshipped here in his Grihastha (householder) avatar. The Lord is shown in the company of his consorts Poorna and Pushkala. There are 18 steps leading to the main shrine as in the case of Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.
A long winding mountain road leads to Achancovil. En-route there is Manalar Falls. This is a tiny one visible only after rains. Move ahead little to see Kumbavurutty Falls. This is a nature interaction centre where tree houses exist for children and a fine leisure spot for passers-by.
Kottarakkara: Contrary to the suggestive feeling (implied from the name of the temple) that the deity of the Mahaganapthy Temple is Ganesh, the deity is actually Shiva. Nobody knows how this contrast happened. True to its deity, the temple was originally known as as Mahadedva temple. The temple has four other shrines – for Parvathi, Ayyappa, Muruga and Nagaraja. The prasadam (sanctified food) of this temple - unniappam – a soft and sweet rice delicacy is very famous. Vinyaka Chathurthi is celebrated as a festival in big scale. During this festival a grand homam (sanctified bonfire) is conducted and 10008 coconuts are given to the Lord as offering. The annual festival on the day of Medam Thiruvathira (Shiva’s birth star) (April/May) is sponsored by devotees. The highlight of this festival is a procession by hundreds of ornamented elephants when thousands of people assemble.
Kottarakkara Thampuran’s Museum of Classical Arts: Just 1.5 km away from Mahaganapathy temple, located. Presently the museum is only for name sake. A small and cramped house exhibits life-sized statues with various disguises and attires of Kathakali. Kottarakkara is the birth place of this Kerala dance form and the founder of the art is Kottarakkara Thampuran. The Kathakali apart, there are statues, disguises and attires of Mohiniyattam, Kudiyattam, Bharatanattyam, Kuchipudi etc. An old maintenance-ignored Tanjore Veena is also there in the display The museum will shortly get a face-lift and additions of displays as the government has decided to spend for it.
Veluthampi Smarakam: The Smarakam (memorial) is in Mannady, near Kottarakkara. The great warrior Veluthampi (1765-1809), the Dewan of Travancore revolted against the British by rallying the people. The revolt was quelled. He preferred suicide to capture. The ignorance of the authorities lits large on the monument made of black stone. It is scarcely seen due to the overgrown grasses all around. A kilometer away is Mannady Devi Temple where Veluthampi made his last pray before ending the life. The people attach great importance to this temple of Veluthambi’s dear deity.
Shopping: Cashewnuts and spices at Chinnakada and several other locations in the town.
Backwater cruises: DTPC offer popular boat cruises (sitting only) from Kollam to Alappuzha on alternate days departing at 10.30 am and taking eight hours with lunch and tea breaks. Fare: Rs. 150/- per person. Half way journey from Kollam to Alumkadavu: Rs. 100/- per person. Concession offered to International Student Card holders.